Washington State Bridge Collapse a Wake-up Call for Washington, D.C.’s Bridges

President Obama used Key Bridge as a backdrop for his Nov. 2, 2011, speech on jobs and infrastructure repairs. | Robert Devaney

With the May 23 Interstate 5 highway bridge collapse in Washington state, highway infrastructure and bridge safety across the U.S. are being questioned anew.

“The collapse of an interstate highway bridge in northern Washington state is a wake-up call for the entire nation,” said Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. National Transportation Safety Board inspection records state that the I-5 bridge had been struck multiple times by vehicles in the past 10 years.

“National bridge records say the I-5 crossing over the Skagit River had a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100 – a score designed to gauge the ability of the bridge to remain in service,” the Washington Times reported. Bridges with ratings of 50 out of 100 or below are eligible for federal replacement.

Around D.C., the go-to bridge for highlighting crossing that are “structurally deficient” remains Francis Scott Key Bridge, between Georgetown and Arlington, Va.; it was built in 1925. Last week, ABC News’s David Curley checked out Key Bridge and noticed some concrete was ready to fall away. “Every day Americans make 200 million trips across what are called structurally deficient bridges, that’s one out of every nine bridges,” he reported. While deemed safe, a structurally deficient bridge requires more check-ups to make sure repairs are on schedule.

With bridges around the U.S. being deemed “at risk,” Key Bridge, carrying 62,000 vehicles each day, is only one among more than 70,000 that requires repairs, the Department of Transportation reported. President Obama used Key Bridge as back-drop in November 2011 to push for his infrastructure jobs proposal.

According to the District Department of Transportation, D.C. will spend $110 million on bridge and ramp repairs in the next few years. Major work on Key Bridge is slated to begin next year, in time for the bicentennial of the Burning of Washington and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Georgetowner Francis Scott Key. Repairs should run around $18 million.

RELATED — See Nov. 2, 2011, Georgetowner article on President Obama’s visit to Georgetown to highlight infrastructure repair jobs.

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